“…And they that buy as though they possessed not; and they that use this world, as not abusing it; for the fashion of this world passeth away.” I Corinthians 7:30b-31
There are two kinds of sinners in regard to this world’s goods: money and possessions. It is the miser on the one hand and it is the spend-thrift on the other hand. They both sin in relation to God. They have a wrong practical life-and-world view. It is to forget that the fashion of this world is passing away and, therefore, a setting of our affections upon the things below and not upon the things above where Christ is at the right hand of glory.
It is not an easy task, my young Christian friend, to buy as though not possessing. It is not for nought that the Psalmist says “when riches increase set not your affections upon them” (Psalm 62:10). And Agur’s prayer may well be written on the posts of our door. “Remove far from me vanity and lies; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me: lest I be full and deny thee and say, Who is the LORD? or lest I be poor and steal and take the name of my God in vain” (Prov. 30:8, 9).
Right now if you are of a family with limited means this does not bother you so much; but when we have parents with a little more than average, even in our affluent society, it is a different question. We sport that nice sports-car, we have our horses and our ponies, we compete in the horse show and in the fairs. In a word: we set our heart on all these things. And we buy as though possessing, and forget that the fashion of this world passes away. All these things are merely the “scheme” of the earthly. It is the earthly, transitory form. It has no abiding and eternal value in itself. It belongs to the pride of life where we do a bit of boasting!
Yes, you like to have that new car so that you can go and court that girl or perhaps simply have a date or two; a nice car may not add to the worth of your person, but it is a status-symbol. And so, one finally “finds” a wife. And then he gets married. And now Paul writes to the Corinthians that this “wife” too belongs to the fashion of this world. In the days of Noah men bought and sold, married and were given in marriage (Matt. 24:38, 39). Says Jesus, “For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and knew not until the flood came and took them all away…”
Living as possessing nothing!
For the sole possessor of all things is God. He is the Creator of all things and He preserves all things as by His Almighty power. Such is the Lord’s prerogative. Such is His ordinance and He never abdicated His throne. This means that the stewardship is ours only by God’s bequest. He grants such stewardship to whom He wills and He has but to remove His hand and all is taken away from unjust and unfaithful stewards. Such is the teaching of Jesus in Luke 16 in the parable of the unjust steward.
It is the conflict in the world today between Capitalism and Communism of who shall possess the world. Right now Communism is seriously challenging Capitalism as a way of life. The revolutionaries (Communism) in all their “fronts” will be “possessors” of the world without “buying” it; the Capitalist wills to “buy it” and then as possessing it. And many young people are swept along with the age of the world, with this nihilism! Meanwhile, the child of God walks another road. His is the role of stewardship under God. He buys as not possessing it, but rather labors with his hands that he may have to give to the poor. In a word: he loves his neighbor as himself.
It ought to be clear that our young people do not have a calling to work in this scheme of “buying” or “not-buying” to possess this world’s goods. Ours is another calling. It is to use whatever we have in the service of the Lord; to buy as not possessing. To constantly keep in mind that ours is the calling of stewardship; that we will have to give account to the Lord of our stewardship. But our stewardship is that we do all in our power to relieve the need of those of the household of faith. Stewardship is serious business and it requires sober reflection. Such sober reflection implies that the brethren in Jamaica be helped, prospective students be given aid in Jamaica, the ministers be given some aid in paying for their traveling to preach the Word to God’s children; our own schools be supported and paid for!
Good budgeting of funds, too, belongs to stewardship. We live in a day of “credit buying”. This means: buy today and possibly possess tomorrow! The credit bureaus teem with people who borrow money to go traveling. People work an entire year to pay for last year’s vacation. And sometimes Young People overspend, too, in their planning on the Conventions and pay tomorrow. That is not good stewardship. That is the sin of the spend-thrift! A good medicine in my youthful days to learning the value of a dollar was to earn one! When dollars come with the toil of honest sweat, one does not dole them out easily. He becomes a budgeting man. He sits down and estimates the cost!
Yet, this man must beware that he does not think that miserliness is the same as stewardship. He will give liberally. He will remember the poor and needy and will feel it an obligation of a good steward to contribute to the causes of church, school and state.
Living as possessing nothing!
This is only possible when we by God’s grace ourselves are God’s property. Only then can we confess that all things which we possess are God’s property. Then we ask: Lord, this money, which thou hast entrusted to my stewardship, how wouldst thou have me budget it and place it upon the altar of sanctification?
This is the narrow way and the straight gate which few find. Yes, seek ye first the kingdom of heaven and His righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you.
Originally Published in:
Vol. 29 No. 5 August 1969